Jorge has been an avid reader of personal development literature for years. He likes to blather on about what he's learned.
Caring What People Think: A Common Disease
Ever since the dawn of humankind, we've all cared what other people think of us. It's so deeply ingrained in us to wonder how others are interpreting and judging our actions, that it seems impossible to let go.
In fact, it can be one of the most damaging elements that keep us away from our own path. Was there ever something you really wanted to do, deep in your soul, but the one thing that held you back were the opinions of others? Did you second guess yourself because your mom said X or your friend said Y or your pastor said Z?
The road to regrets is built by giving a crap what others think. Brick by brick, every little crap you give based on the opinions of others will lead you further away from what you are truly meant to do in this life.
Can there really be a way to rid yourself of this ancient problem, though?
Yes. You don't have to live this way. You can learn over time to stop caring what people think of you--or at least, to care much less than you do now.
1) Realize That Nobody Actually Knows What They're Doing
The first thing you need to know is that people are dumb and they will lead you astray. This may sound terrible, but it's true. Even the smartest people in the world are dumb when it comes to telling other people how to live their lives.
Imagine being surrounded by average people and being affected by their opinions about who you are and what you're doing? Chances are, you'll be led into a path that you don't want.
Consider what the average person thinks is "right" or "good" or "cool" or "attractive" or whatever. Do you want to be these things, according to their interpretation? What kind of life would that look like?
Consider the average person and what they're like. Do you want to live that same life and have the same kind of results that they do when it comes to career, romantic relationships, and so on?
If so, then go ahead and let their opinions affect you. Care what they think. Let them color the decisions that you make. Let the little voice inside your head assume that the world is always right and you're always wrong.
If not, however, then you need to realize that people actually don't know what they're doing. Most people's heads are filled with false or misleading information that they learned from the media, and very little actual experience. Worst still, most people will have strong opinions based on this garbage information.
Just realizing this and accepting that people are silly and that everything they say should be taken with a grain of salt will start you well on the path to stop caring what people think of you.
2) Notice That You Are Doing a Disservice to the World By Caring What People Think
What are the consequences of caring what people think? You might be trying to find a solution to this problem because it causes you anxiety in your personal life, but you should also realize that the issue is more far-reaching than that. Caring what people think means that you're not following your own path.
If you're not following your own path, that means that you're not contributing to the world in the best way you can. Let's say you would love to be a teacher, but your mother insisted that you become a doctor because you'll make more money and your career will be more prestigious.
If you have no passion for the medical field, but accept this because you care how others will judge you, then you will do the world a disservice by becoming a mediocre doctor instead of an exceptional teacher. The world is filled with people who are mediocre at their jobs and do them half-heatedly because it's not what they really wanted. We don't need more of these people.
3) Do Something Totally Stupid
If you're really committed to stop caring what people think, then you have to practice not caring. You can only convince yourself intellectually to a degree--eventually, you will have to see for yourself that the world won't end if people judge you negatively.
The easiest way to do this is by doing something that everyone else says is stupid. Heck, you can even do something that you think is stupid.
Walk around all day wearing rags, pretending to be a hobo. Go up to people and ask them to sniff your neck and give their opinions on your cologne. Show up to a party with a purposefully terrible haircut. Don't shower for a few days and go on a date. Get creative!
The point is to do something innocuous that people would normally judge you for. Of course, don't do something that is actually harmful to yourself or other people--just try something that flies in the face of social conventions. This will help build your courage.
After all, the reason why you care what people think of you is because of your subconscious fear of what will happen if you do something "wrong" in their eyes. Nothing cures this faster than doing something wrong on purpose!
Addicted to the Opinions of Other People
4) Do Exactly What You're Afraid Of
Now that you've flexed your muscles a little bit, it's time to move onto something harder:
What is your most irrational social fear? Are you scared of walking up to a man or woman and telling them that you like them? Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself at the local gym by doing your favorite awkward exercise? Are you afraid of raising your hand in class or at work and asking a stupid question?
Do it. Every ounce of your body may resist it and you may turn red like a tomato, making the situation feel even worse, but this is one of the best ways to stop caring what people think of you. Of course, you will probably have to do this many times before you no longer care, so make it a habit to conquer your social fears as soon as you notice them.
5) Start Saying "No" and See What Happens
A common side-effect of caring what people think about you is being a "people-pleaser." This means that you have the inability to say no because you don't want to upset anyone. People will take advantage of this. They will use your own fear of being judged to manipulate you.
You can save yourself from this kind of manipulation by practicing the art of saying no. Just try it:
"Say, can you give me a ride on Saturday?"
"Hey, can we meet for some tea on Friday so that I can tell you all about my relationship problems and cry on your shoulder for three hours?"
"Hello there, would you like to live a life of fame, money, and recognition even if it means that you have to sell your soul and do drugs to dull the pain of your loneliness and lack of fulfillment?"
It will be hard at first, but soon enough you will realize how liberating "no" can be. You will be able to push everything off your plate and fill it only with things that really matter to you.
6) Look Inside Yourself; Watch for the Part That Cares What People Think
The above steps will do a lot to help you care less about what people think, but the one practice that will allow you to make huge leaps in this area is self-reflection.
Every time you are about to make a decision, make it a habit to look at your thought process. Look inside of yourself--are you considering what other people think?
"Gosh, I really like these pants, but they're so silly-looking. People will look at me wearing them and scoff."
You might be thinking something like this before you make a purchase and not even realize it! It might be so automatic in you, that people's opinions are affecting you before you even hear them. Isn't it sad how society can train us so well that we toe the line without even being asked?
Keep your guard up against the influence of others. Ask yourself constantly if you're letting this bad mental habit affect your path--whether it's something as huge as a career choice, or as seemingly mundane as the pants you decide to buy.
7) Be Your Absolute Self
Finally, the most important thing in the universe is to be yourself. This is harder than it sounds. First, you have to figure out the difference between yourself and the social conditioning that you often mistake for yourself.
This is not easy at all, but you can slowly chip away at it by following the advice in step #6. Slowly by surely, if you make a habit of examining your own motivations, you will figure out which desires come from you and which came from other people. Every time you really want something, trace the "want" back to its source if you can.
And if something truly is you, then don't apologize for it. Be yourself as absolutely as you can. This does two things:
- It solidifies in your mind the fact that doing what you truly want is satisfying, and much better than caring what other people think.
- It repulses people who don't like who you are and attracts people who do.
Eventually, simply by being yourself, you will build a social circle around you that supports who you are. This means that over time it will not only get easier to stop caring what people think, but people will be less critical anyway!
How to Stop Caring What People Think About You in a World That Cares Too Much
One last thing before you prance off into the distance: Hold your mind sacred and guard what goes into it.
We live in a crazy world, and one of the reasons people care so much what others think is the constant influx of messages from the media to make you envious and unsatisfied. Consider unplugging from the media for awhile. Stop reading the news (the world will go on without you; trust me), stop watching TV, stop wasting hours of your precious life on social media.
Instead, spend your time learning more about yourself. Find out what you really care about in life and where your passions are. You will contribute so much more to the world--and to your own satisfaction--if you do that instead of being led around by what people think about you.
© 2017 Jorge Vamos
dashingscorpio from Chicago on July 13, 2017:
"If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection." - Lecrae
When we stop caring what others think about us we're free!